NASA selects first commercial habitable module for ISS

NASA has chosen its first commercial destination module for the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA
NASA has chosen its first commercial destination module for the International Space Station.
Photo courtesy NASA

NASA has selected Houston-based space station manufacturer Axiom Space to provide at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station (ISS) as the agency continues to open the station for commercial use.

This selection is a significant step toward enabling the development of independent commercial destinations that meet NASA’s long-terms needs in low-Earth orbit, beyond the life of the space station, and continue to foster the growth of a robust low-Earth orbit economy, NASA said.

The element will attach to the space station’s Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy in which NASA is one of many customers. Next, NASA and Axiom will begin negotiations on the terms and price of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option.

Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of five elements of NASA’s plan to open the ISS to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy, enable private astronaut missions to the station, seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services, and quantify NASA’s long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit.

“Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research, and technology demonstrations in low-Earth orbit,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator. “We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration.”

NASA selected Axiom from proposals submitted in response to a solicitation through Appendix I of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 broad agency announcement, which offered private industry use of the station utilities and a port to attach one or more commercial elements to the orbiting laboratory.

Since commercial destinations are considered a key element of a robust economy in low-Earth orbit, NASA also plans to issue a final opportunity to partner with the agency in the development of a free-flying, independent commercial destination. Through these combined efforts to develop commercial destinations, NASA intends to meet its long-term needs in low-Earth orbit beyond the life of the station.

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